Basic Care for Your Cat

Basic Care for Your Cat

If you’ve recently added a cat to your household, you are embarking on a new journey with a wonderful companion. Like dogs, cats can become your four-legged best friend, and they can enhance your life by simply being a part of your tribe. Knowing some of the basic care tips will help you and your cat live the best life possible. Below are some basics that you’ll want to keep in mind as you become a cat owner.

Introducing Your Cat to a New Home

Bringing a cat home can be both exciting and intimidating. There are some ways to make the transition a little bit easier that will help your cat feel welcome and safe. Remember that cats are independent by nature, but they still need you to survive, so finding a balance will be your challenge from day one. Every cat is different and learning their preferences, what their behaviors mean and how they fit into the family fold, will take some time but like any pet, they like consistency and safety. If your cat is displaying unusual or concerning behavior, a visit to your vet could help you avoid a pet emergency. The following are some simple things you can do when you first introduce your cat to your home;

  • Get a good litter box and quality cat litter
  • Have a cat bed ready so your cat has a safe, soft place to perch
  • Cats love to play, so have some toy mice, string and some empty boxes for their entertainment
  • Catnip is handy for training and bribery
  • A scratching post will help save your couch from the natural scratching cats like to do

Feeding

If your new cat is a kitten, there are some essential things to know about feeding and introducing food to their diet. If your new cat is an adult cat, by the time you bring them into your home, they’ve most likely already established their food preferences and decided on what they like and don’t like. By nature, cats can be picky with food, so learning their previous diet can be very helpful for a new adult cat. Studies show that cats form their food preferences in the first year of life. Cats need to get the proper nutrients so finding a quality food is essential for their good health. If you have a kitten, making sure to introduce a variety of food will give you more options with feeding. Wet food, dry food, and semi-dry food are the options that you’ll want to experiment with while they are young. Learning about cat nutrition is also helpful so you can read the labels on their food and know which nutrients they are getting. Here are some tips for feeding your cat;

  • Choose a well-balanced food that has proper nutrients for cats
  • Protein and fat are two key ingredients you’ll want to make sure they get in their food
  • If the food has a good balance of fats, proteins, and nutrients, you don’t need to give additional supplements and vitamins, the food is all they need. (and water of course.)
  • Make sure your cat has fresh water daily
  • Wash the food and water bowls daily to avoid bacteria build-up
  • Don’t put their water bowl right next to the food bowl, it’s an either or for them and often they will choose food over water, so they can inadvertently become dehydrated. Consider putting their water bowl somewhere else in the house so they can dine and drink separately.
  • Typically cats like to eat at dawn and dusk, so start there and see how that schedule works, then modify if necessary.
  • Cats need an average of 200 calories per day, with variations depending on your cat’s health and age
  • Don’t over-feed, overweight cats are more prone to joint and heart disease and diabetes.

Housing Your Cat

Keeping in mind that cats are independent by nature, you’ll want to consider what you offer your cat for their housing. Consideration of their psychological and behavioral needs is most important when selecting housing for your cat. Cats can be social if they have enough space to retreat for some alone time. A resting place, their own food bowls, and their own litter boxes help to make them feel safe and welcome, especially if there are other cats living under the same roof.

  • Each cat needs their own bed
  • Cats need their very own food and water bowls, sharing with other cats is not a good idea
  • Your cat’s housing area should include a variety of structures to encourage exercise
  • Remember cats are explorers. They need to practice climbing and balancing, so creating an indoor playground will appeal to their instinctual drive to explore.
  • Cats love to play, whether it’s with their food or the toys you provide. Give them options for their entertainment. Boxes and empty containers can provide hours of entertainment.

Grooming

Basic grooming is essential for your cat. If you are bringing home a kitten, introducing grooming habits right from the start will help you and your cat in the future. Cats self-groom a lot, it isn’t unusual to see your cat wash multiple times a day. Cats are generally pretty good at taking care of themselves, to a certain degree. We do need to assist in some areas and so knowing how and what to help with is useful. Get your kitten familiar with nail clipping, washing, & brushing and then they will look forward to it. Take time to groom them, try and make it a pleasant experience. If you are bringing home an adult cat, chances are they’ve had a terrible experience in the past, so they might not like grooming from a human. There are ways to combat this, but it takes time and patience on your part. Remember the following when grooming your cat;

  • Brushing their teeth is important, cats tend to get rotten teeth
  • Keep the grooming sessions short at the beginning, 5-10 minutes max, then slowly introduce longer sessions once the cat has learned to trust you and sees the experience as pleasant.
  • Spend time petting your cat’s body, her ears, tail, belly, back, and feet. This will get them comfortable with your touch so when you go to groom her, she won’t be shocked having those body parts washed.
  • Regular brushing sessions will help keep your cat’s fur free of dirt and tangles
  • Using a variety of combs and brushes can help with grooming. Metal and rubber brushes work great.
  • Use a mild shampoo for their coat
  • A spray hose helps to wet your pet down thoroughly and gets all the soap out of her coat
  • Nail clipping is recommended every two weeks
  • Brush your cat’s teeth as often as you can, daily brushing is recommended because plaque builds up quickly in their mouth.

Litter Box Tips

If you ask, almost any cat owner will tell you the one downside to owning a cat is the litter box. This is the topic that takes the most time and maintenance. The challenge is finding ways to eliminate odors and keep the floor clean while still providing your cat with a clean place to eliminate. The following tips can help with this challenge;

  • Stick with unscented litter~ Cats have 67 million scent receptors, so unscented litter is considerate of your cat’s keen sense of smell.
  • Put the little box somewhere secluded but accessible so your cat has some privacy, away from loud appliances and communal areas. This also helps reduce odors traveling throughout your home.
  • When changing out the litter, wash the box as well, at least once a week. This helps keep the litter dry and eliminates odors sticking around.
  • Scoop your cat’s waste twice a day
  • Add baking soda to the bottom of the box, below the litter layer. This helps reduce odors.
  • Buy a new cat box once a year as it gets worn and starts to absorb odors even after washing.
  • Avoid covered boxes, cats prefer having visual access while eliminating, an open box is more relaxing for them.
  • Consider using sand if your cat doesn’t seem to like the litter.

Handling

Learning how to handle a cat properly will save you and the cat a lot of heartaches. Cats, much like dogs, can be dangerous if they get surprised or feel unsafe, so approaching a cat and immediately trying to pick her up could result in scratching and stress. Using both hands to pick up the cat is important, so you don’t hurt her. Many people believe it’s okay to pick a cat up by the scruff of their neck but it’s not. Their entire bodies need to be supported, especially their hind legs, otherwise, you run the risk of them feeling threatened which can result in being scratched by their back feet. The key to success is making the cat feel comfortable and safe.

  • Don’t immediately try to pick up an unfamiliar cat
  • Start by petting the top of the cat’s head, let her smell your hand and warm up to you
  • Then move to pet her back and let her check you out, she will probably circle your legs, just give her a few minutes to familiarize with your scent
  • Don’t be stressed when trying to handle a cat, they will sense your tension and not want to be handled.
  • Teach your children how to handle cats too, the sooner they learn the better they will get at reading animals and knowing how to introduce themselves.
  • Never pick a cat up without supporting her back legs.
  • Get an expert’s advice before trying to trap or handle a feral or injured cat, you could accidentally hurt the cat or get injured yourself.

Feline Vet Care & Vaccinations

Vaccinations are a key component to owning a pet, especially cats because they are susceptible to all kinds of feline illnesses and diseases. There are three essential vaccines that you need to make sure your cat receives, often called the Core Vaccines. They are; FPV (feline panleukopenia) FHV-1 (feline herpesvirus-1), and FCV (feline calicivirus.) Every cat, no matter where in world they live, need these three vaccines because these three diseases are found worldwide, are very dangerous to young cats and they are highly infectious. The vaccines present very minimal risk and are considered highly effective and protective for cats.  For more information about these and other feline diseases and illnesses, follow this link to our Feline Conditions & Illnesses webpage. There, you will find information about the suggested frequency of necessary vaccines and other crucial tips for feline health care.

Whether you are bringing home a new kitten or adopting an adult cat, being prepared and informed will help both you and your new pet. If you’ve never owned a cat prior to this new one, your adventures are just beginning and arming yourself with sage knowledge will be a lifesaver. If you have previously owned a cat, you know you have a life-long friend that can be picky, tricky and fall kinds of fun. Every cat is different, but the basics stay the same. Cat care can be fun and predictable if done right, so do your research and enjoy your new furry friend!